Believe it or not, funeral homes were not always a service available to the public. In fact, prior to the 20th century, many families and neighbors held private services for loved ones in their homes. They also couldn't wait for days for the service. The internment had to occur within 48 hours and took place on their property.
Going back further in time, every civilization has held a personal standard for how they treated the dead, whether through burial, cremation, or other means. Ancient Egypt embalmed their deceased in a mummification process. An ancient catacomb used to store over 6 million people has been discovered underground in Paris, France.
In past America, the desire for public cemeteries and funeral homes emerged after the Civil War. The number of bodies amassed during the conflict made transporting the soldiers back home impossible. Since bodies could not be transported quickly, the embalming process was used. The cabinetmakers of the time who produced coffins for families in private services became undertakers as their furniture building skills fused with embalming techniques became very desirable. Over time, funeral homes emerged as an essential public service and were usually owned as a family business.
During the 1960s, larger funeral homes began buying out smaller businesses leading to widespread consolidation. Still, to this day most funeral homes are small family businesses providing services to the community.
Funeral Homes Today
In modern-day America, the need and number of funeral homes has decreased. While the service remains essential for many looking to bury their loved ones, alternative services have emerged for people looking for cheaper services. This includes cremation which has gained popularity in recent times and allows families to keep their loved ones in a crematorium or take their ashes home. Some alternative businesses offer just graveside services. The change in popularity of funeral homes can be attributed to the decline of religion in America, as many funeral homes function also as churches. Another factor is the continued preservation of gravesites for slaves or indigenous groups in America. Some have asked the question, "What happens when you run out of space for graves?" Alternative services like cremation offer a potential solution.
For now, there will be a continued need for funeral homes and other types of services. People continue to die, and that is one fact that will never change. Society will simply evolve with time and discover the past method of commemorating their loved ones, just as they have since the beginning of time.
To learn more about funeral homes, reach out to a company like Conboy-Westchester Funeral Home Inc.